08:16 GMT31 May 2020
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    A new rule passed without congressional approval will enable US police to hack into computers anywhere in the world, with minimal oversight.

    A US Department of Justice proposal was passed into law without a vote, since a legal loophole allows courts' "procedural rules" to be drafted by a select committee and rubber-stamped into force by the Supreme Court. These kinds of proposals can be thwarted only if Congress explicitly decides to vote to challenge them and it has time until December to do so.  

    Specifically, the amendment will change the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure's Rule 41, which until now established an American judge could order electronic searches only within their own jurisdiction. Also, up to the amendment, courts had to issue a distinct warrant for each computer they wanted to search.

    The amended rule would now remove that limitations: cops could use a warrant to search as many computers as they want, and they will not have to be within the court's legal purview, but pretty much anywhere in the globe. 

    The amendment would also allow US police to use hacking tools to violate the encryption of anonymous browser TOR.  

    All these changes make for a mixed bunch, but the amendment is actually a very tailored response to a specific scenario. 

    Some recent investigations over child pornography were disrupted because of Rule 41's previous structure. A Virginia court had ordered FBI to hack a child pornography websites hosted on the dark web to get hold of over 1,000 IPs of the site's users, all of them using TOR.

    Since most of these offenders resided out of the court's judicial district, and since bypassing TOR was not allowed under the rule, some of the evidence collected by the court was later suppressed.

    Now, Rule 41 could solve this conundrum, but in the same breath it will enormously expand US surveillance powers.     


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    Tor, computers, intelligence, law, hacking, surveillance, privacy, US police, US Department of Justice, World, United States
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